Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is probably what most people think about when they hear the term, 'anxiety disorder'. GAD is characterized primarily with worry for at least 6 months with other symptoms such as restlessness, feeling tired easily, concentration difficulties, irritable mood, tense muscles, and sleep disruption (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Sleep disruptions might include difficulties going to sleep (onset insomnia), waking during the night (terminal insomnia), or poor quality sleep. See Blog on Sleep Hygiene for more information. GAD is a common condition impacting about 3% of adults in the United States with females being twice as likely as males of developing it (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). There is a lot of symptom overlap between GAD and other psychological conditions, especially other anxiety disorders.
As the central feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, worry deserves additional explanation. Worry is simply the over-focus on a negative outcome. Some people think about the worst case scenario with any situation they are in. This is known as catastrophizing. Others might have a slight tendency to focus a little more on potential negatives than potential positives. Worry can be more thoughtful and cognitive for some or more emotional for others. Common sources of worry include one's future, finances, relationships, work or school demands, and one's health/safety. With Generalized Anxiety Disorder, worry tends to be in a few or several different categories. When worry is all about the perceptions of others or about one's performance, the condition might be Social Anxiety Disorder (formerly Social Phobia). Specific Phobia occurs when a worry is focused on particular objects or situations. Agoraphobia involves a fear of leaving one's home. Worry is typically treated with a Cognitive Behavioral approach including an assessment of the origins of worry, evaluation of potential cognitive distortions, and implementation of present-day strategies to overcome worry.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a treatable condition and many clients enjoy the freedom from worry and other symptoms after treatment. If you experience these symptoms on a regular basis and would like professional assessment and treatment, give me a call to schedule your first appointment.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.